Cloud Automation: Extended through orchestration

It’s time to talk about cloud automation as more than just a buzzword. True cloud automation helps reign many manual activities to provide efficient and repeatable operations. The application of cloud automation solutions is an opportunity to work towards the benefits of its implementation. Including, increased velocity, triggered workflows, and advantages with scaling infrastructure.

In this article, we will talk about the benefits of cloud automation and how the right cloud automation tools help guarantee a solid, stable, and dynamic delivery and monitoring solution.

What is Cloud Automation and why is it necessary?

Cloud automation is the use of various automation tools which handle aspects of software delivery, configuration, and stability that would normally be managed by one or more manual processes. It could be something as simple as a webhook that provides status messages to a team chat. Or it could be much more complicated.

Cloud provisioning automation can ensure infrastructure is created and maintained in a manner that’s repeatable. In some cases, this even becomes a part of the development process. Implementing Infrastructure as Code (IaC) has long been used to allowallows developers to include the application’s architecture as written code. This code is checked in alongside the program as a blueprint to be used for automated infrastructure setup and scaling options.

There are other cloud automation solutions that may be specific to a product or environment. For these, many companies have scripts that are designed to handle many of the repeatable processes. Scripts, custom machine images, and specialized deployment processes are all part of an automated landscape that benefit greatly from cloud automation.

Major benefits of cloud automation.

To see the benefits of a properly implemented cloud automation solution, you only need to look at the advantages of manual vs. automated processes. With manual processes and procedures, the human element introduces a propensity for error. Even with the most in-depth documentation for a process, the chances of a mistake are greater when an engineer needs to take a manual approach to a solution.

In contrast, automated processes limit the amount of human interaction required. Thankfully, the scripts and tools that comprise an automation solution do not usually change after their process is worked out. The next logical step is to consider making all of the automated portions of your workflow interact with each other, properly. For this, orchestration is the key. Orchestration allows for many of today’s cloud automation tools to interact with each other to create a fully automated solution. More on that, later!

What are some common cloud automation and orchestration tools?

While there are many automation tools to solve the issues we face, most do not cover all the aspects of orchestration necessary for an end-to-end solution. Some tools are geared towards the infrastructure aspect while others handle software build, packaging, and delivery. Add to that the need for solutions that handle VMware, Azure, and AWS automation, and it is hard to find something to cover all the bases.

Configuration – Tools used to handle the automated configuration of a service.

  • Ansible – Inventory based configuration/automation solution via pushed modules.
  • Salt or SaltStack – Remote execution across a vast number of hosts at once.
  • netconf – A network configuration solution optimized for machine automation vs. human interaction via CLI.
  • Scripts – Common tools like Bash and PowerShell are used to interact with APIs and executables to help automate configuration.

Infrastructure Orchestration – Management of infrastructure via various tools and instructions that interact with an orchestrator.

  • Azure ARM – Templates used for Azure services that provide repeatable deployments of a resource.
  • Terraform – Used to interface with various host services like VMware, Azure, AWS, and other cloud providers. Allows for an scripted solution for on-prem and cloud architecture via stored instruction.
  • VMware – Using its orchestration tools, VMware allows for automating host provisioning and infrastructure orchestration.
  • Kubespray – Assists with deploying Kubernetes clusters in conjunction with Ansible playbooks.

Service Orchestration – A hierarchical architecture that serves to coordinate and manage systems. These can span across multiple cloud vendors, and domains such as: 

  • Kubernetes – Allows for containerized applications to run and auto-scale through external and internal mechanisms.
  • Multi Cloud – Many companies use multiple cloud providers. This allows for the support of legacy applications or services that require additional failover regions.
  • Hybrid Cloud – Hybrid cloud is a mixture of external and internal cloud infrastructure. Allowing a mix of solutions like VMware within your existing datacenter alongside external cloud providers.

Cloud orchestration enhances automation

Expanding more on the topic of orchestration, it’s important to note the difference between it and cloud automation. Automation of some type has been around for many years in the infrastructure and service delivery world. Whether it has been through scripted solutions built in-house, or commercially available tools that enjoy a large part of the market, DevOps and other automation-driven efforts have sought to find more ways to handle the repetitive tasks.

Orchestration furthers this automation to allow for an extensive network of instructions and actions that do just that: Handling multiple tasks in a way that is repeatable and with less chance of human error. While automation may do this for one part of the picture, orchestration handles the entire solution. The distinction is important when considering how to allow all of these cloud automation and orchestration tools to interact.

But who controls the orchestrator? It may be easy to handle with only a couple of tools in your arsenal. That’s about the time more assistance is needed. Coined the “Orchestrator of Orchestrators.” Cloudify extends first level orchestration. Effectively combining all of the cloud automation tools referenced above into an end-to-end solution.

When automation isn’t enough: Cloudify

To help tie everything together, something needs to be the “conductor” of these specialized orchestration tools. Tying things together is ultimately what we have to accomplish when focusing on our automation solutions. When everything is talking the same language, great things happen! Cloudify’s native support for today’s cloud automation tooling is your drop-in collaborator to help everything talk and perform at a higher level.

With all of these tools and methods at the disposal of automation engineers, it can get very complicated. Systems require subject matter experts in order to ensure the cloud automation tools in use work for your environment. Having that knowledge is helpful, but can cause speed bumps on the road to full automation. Especially if that subject matter expert moves to another role.

More than likely you are in the same situation that many companies find themselves in. With the swift advancement of cloud providers and their simplified IaaS offerings, the technology we work with seems to change every few months. While on the path to adopt these tools, we have a clear need for a more centralized management point. This is especially true for hybrid cloud automation.

Beyond the infrastructure automation benefits of Cloudify, the additional aspects put it up there as the critical tool for orchestrating the orchestrators. Configuration, Kubernetes control, all the way to Edge orchestration. The benefits are clear. Find out more about Cloudify and how even multi cloud automation can be managed as one cohesive environment.

You may be interested in reading:

DevOps automation best practices

Continuous delivery configuration management

Cloud lifecycle management


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